There are not too many questions concerning Clemson football as it gets set to begin spring practices a week from today. Why should there be?
The Tigers return 17 starters that started at least four games in 2017, and that does not include their starting punter and kicker. However, there is one big question that will have the nation paying attention to Clemson this spring and when fall camp begins in August.
Is there really a competition at quarterback?
It is an interesting question. It might appear to some that there is no question.
After all, Kelly Bryant led the Tigers back to the College Football Playoffs and was 12-2 in his first year as a starter. They won a third straight ACC Championship with the Calhoun Falls native behind center and he was voted as the Most Valuable Player of the ACC Championship Game.
But Dabo Swinney and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter did not bring in former 5-star quarterbacks Hunter Johnson and Trevor Lawrence to stand on the sideline and hold clipboards. They were brought in, as well as former 4-star quarterback Chase Brice, to compete for the starting job.
“Obviously, Kelly Bryant is going to go in as the starter from Day One,” Streeter said. “What an unbelievable year that he had and just an unbelievable leader on this team, and he earned it all year. He earned it from a year ago.
“He is obviously going to get the first reps the first day, but all four of those guys are going to get a lot of reps this spring. There is no doubt about it. I can’t say they are going to be perfectly equal, but they are going to be pretty close to being equal.”
Bryant threw for 2,802 yards last season, while completing 65.8 percent of his passes. He also ran for 665 yards and had 24 total touchdowns.
However, by the end of the year, Johnson really started to come on for the Tigers. He performed well enough in practice to share backup duties with the now departed Zerrick Cooper. Streeter, along with co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott praised the progression of the young quarterback prior to the Sugar Bowl.
Thanks to Johnson’s progression, he has positioned himself to get a serious look this spring and summer, and he will be pushing Bryant for the job.
Johnson played in seven games last year, and completed 21-of-27 passes for 234 yards. He threw two touchdown passes, including a 78-yard touchdown to fellow freshman Tee Higgins in the Tigers’ win over The Citadel.
Brice also progressed during his redshirt campaign. Streeter said he made tremendous strides both physically and mentally in the redshirt year and took a big step in processing the whole offense.
Then there is Lawrence, who was the No. 1 player in the country coming out of high school. Lawrence signed with Clemson in December and enrolled in school last month so he can participate in spring drills.
Lawrence finished his high school career with a 52-2 record as a starter and won two state championships. He broke Deshaun Watson’s Georgia state records for passing yards (13,908) and touchdown passes (161) in a career.
He had 41 touchdown passes and one interception in 12 games last fall.
Lawrence still has work to do, but his talent automatically puts him in the mix. He is still learning the playbook, but enrolling in school early and participating in spring practices will only benefit him and Clemson in the long run.
His progression this spring will determine where he is at when fall camp begins and if he can seriously push Bryant and Johnson for the starting job.
Spring practice has not even begun, but the question if Bryant can hold off Johnson, Brice and Lawrence is already getting very interesting.
“They are all very, very talented young men and special young men,” Streeter said. “So we are just really excited about the opportunity this spring to watch these guys grow and get better and especially just be able to work with these young men.”